RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Two members of the PGA Tour Champions, one among the most important figures in European Tour history and the other a solid player with ties to the Southern California desert, used the inaugural Galleri Classic as the place to end their competitive playing days.
Sandy Lyle, a five-time Ryder Cup player from Scotland who won both the British Open and the Masters, marked the end of his playing career at this week’s event Sunday. John Cook, an 11-time PGA Tour winner who lived at Mission Hills Country Club, site of the Galleri event, for nearly three decades, also finished his career this week.
While Lyle never won a PGA Tour Champions event in 189 starts, it was his early career that made him an important figure in the game. Lyle won 18 European Tour titles and six on the PGA Tour, including the 1985 British Open and the 1988 Masters. The Masters title was punctuated with a memorable fairway bunker shot on the final hole.
Lyle, 65, said he will miss what he calls the traveling circus of professional golf.
“Just like all the other tours, the tennis tour or the PGA Tour,” Lyle said. “And you get to know the guys you play with and compete with. You will miss them to a certain amount.”
It was as a member of the European Ryder Cup team where Lyle might have made his biggest impact. Playing in five Ryder Cups from 1979 to 1987, Lyle was one of the European team’s Big Five who turned the tide in the matches, making Europe the dominant side in the competition against the United States. Lyle was joined in the core group by Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer.
Lyle said he will still keep up with the senior tour and his friends, perhaps splitting his time between his native Scotland and Florida in the winter.
“You will still see a lot of them on television,” Lyle said. “Television has exposed golf so much in the last 25 years.”
While Lyle never won on the PGA Tour Champions, Cook won 10 times on the 50-and-over circuit after winning 11 times on the PGA Tour. Two of those victories came in the 1992 and 1997 the American Express in the Coachella Valley in a time when Cook was still living at Mission Hills Country Club.
Retiring at Mission Hills with his family and friends watching is a perfect end for Cook, who hasn’t played much golf in recent years as he worked more for Golf Channel and battled melanoma under his eye last year.
“I pretty much retired five years ago as T.V. got a little bit more busy,” Cook said. “They would ask me if I wanted to play at all. They would give me one or two weeks if I wanted to go play, and now it’s a little bit different schedule.”
Lyle finished his last tournament at 18-over 234, last among the 76 golfers who completed 54 holes. He shot a final-round 74.
Cook finished 62nd in the field at 3-over 217, including a 73 in his final 18 holes to applause from his family and old friends from his days at Mission Hills.